Guest Editorial 1 | Orange ButtonSM is Making Solar (even more) Affordable

by Aaron Smallwood

In 2016, the U.S. passed 1 million solar installations, and that number is estimated to pass 2 million by the end of this year. Exponential growth is everywhere in the solar industry, which now powers 1 percent of the country’s energy – a ten-fold increase from five years ago. 1

Since 2010, the compound annual growth rate of solar installations is 58 percent, driven largely by falling prices (70 percent decrease since 2006) and rising demand. Despite falling prices and increasing demand, soft costs remain a stubborn speed bump for residential installations – making up 63 percent of total installation cost. 2

Orange ButtonSM Program Year One

Part of the U.S. Department of Energy-funded SunShot Initiative, Orange ButtonSM is driving the creation and adoption of industry-led open data standards for rapid and seamless information exchange across the solar value chain, from origination to decommissioning. Standardizing data will reduce soft costs by making it easier to share solar data and speeding up processes.

SGIP, the SunSpec Alliance, kWh Analytics and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are leading the Orange ButtonSM program. Orange ButtonSM kicked off in early 2016 by recruiting participants to create a scoping study, develop industry-driven use cases, and define market requirements used to inform the (under development) solar data taxonomy. The DOE was pleased with the progress after one year—giving it a “green” status in a recent report.

The Orange ButtonSM program is focused on all areas of the solar project value chain, including finance, operations and management, deployment, real estate and grid integration. With input from the Orange ButtonSM Requirements Working Groups representing each of these areas, the program created market requirements that defined what data should be included in the solar data standard. The goal is not to build from scratch but to use existing standards where appropriate.

Orange ButtonSM Program Year Two

Year Two is another busy year for the program. SGIP is facilitating a handoff of the Orange ButtonSM requirements to the industry teams led by the SunSpec Alliance who are building the solar data taxonomy, as well as coordinating solar industry awareness and education. In addition to building the solar data taxonomy, the SunSpec Alliance teams are developing Application Programmatic Interfaces (APIs) and an Orange ButtonSM conformance test framework.

In Year Two, kWh Analytics an industry leader in risk management software, continues the development of a cloud based solution that will translate disparate file formats into the new Orange ButtonSM data format. The purpose of this solution is to lower barriers to adoption and to accelerate use of the Orange ButtonSM taxonomy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is leading the development of the Solar Data Exchange Platform, a comprehensive catalog for solar data that connects standardized data access to the solar industry to advance the solar marketplace.

Benefits of Orange ButtonSM

If the management of solar data is streamlined, it can boost the bankability of solar projects, thereby attracting investment. But for that to happen, developers, asset operators, utilities, financiers, solar companies, entrepreneurs and more must work together to define a solar data taxonomy that meets the needs of the participants in the solar project lifecycle.

When adopted, Orange ButtonSM will enable asset operators to report performance data to owners and investors without having to customize it for each owner’s needs – driving lower costs. Asset owners could receive standardized performance data from all of their investments, eliminating the need for to manually compile multiple formats into a single performance view for portfolio management. Solar developers will be able to utilize a single taxonomy to perform handoff to asset operators, keeping them from wasting time to meet each operator’s individual data needs.

There are many ways that standardized data can benefit solar. Another example is if software vendors incorporate the standardized taxonomy into their financial management products, Orange ButtonSM can enable exchange of data between systems that currently require manual manipulation to complete.

All of this leads to increased bankability of solar projects, more efficient solar data transactions, and further acceleration of (even more) solar.

In 2017 and 2018, the solar industry will have opportunities to become more familiar with Orange ButtonSM and the benefits it can bring. Orange ButtonSM program partners will host informational webinars, publish industry updates, review and comment on the taxonomy, and interested solar industry stakeholders can become an Orange ButtonSM tester or early adopter.

For more information about Orange ButtonSM and how you can get involved go to http://www.sgip.org/orange-button/

About the Author

Aaron Smallwood is VP, Technology at SGIP. He is responsible for leading SGIP’s Program Management Office and working with member committees and groups in advancing SGIP’s technology strategy and agenda.

Aaron has been in Information Technology for 20 years and in the utility industry for the last 15 years. As Director of IT Operations at the Electric Reliability of Council of Texas (ERCOT), Aaron was responsible for the multi-data center IT operations of ERCOT’s real-time grid and market systems, deregulated retail market systems, Enterprise Data Warehouse, systems integration, and market settlement systems. In other roles at ERCOT he led business/technology alignment, IT strategy development, program financial management for the Texas Nodal Market Implementation, IT stakeholder relationship management, and the IT divisional project office.

Prior to ERCOT, Aaron was responsible for managing the relationship between IT and utility business units at Aquila, Inc., working with utility and IT leaders to ensure that IT services were aligned with business objectives and that IT was positioned to support their needs.

Orange Button at sgip.org http://www.sgip.org/orange-button/

SunSpec Open Solar Data Exchange http://sunspec.org/sunspec-osdx/

Orange Button Data Orange Button Data http://www.orangebuttondata.org/


1 Source: SEIA/GTM Research U.S. Solar Market Insight Q4 2015
   Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Tracking the Sun

2 Source: SEIA/GTM Research U.S. Solar Market Insight Q4 2015
   Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Tracking the Sun

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